The Protestant Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Italy

By Salvatore Caponetto; Anne C. Tedeschi et al. | Go to book overview

bitter days following the defeat of the Schmalkaldic League after the imperial victory at Mühlberg ( 1547), and during the siege of Magdeburg, Matthias Flacius steeled the will to resist of ministers and people.

Thoroughly educated in both theology and history, Flacius conceived the idea of a history of the church by century. The result was the famous Magdeburg Centuries, published in thirteen volumes, the fruit of the labors of a team of scholars working under his guidance at great personal cost, without financial support from German cities or rulers. Building on the scheme of Flacius Catalogus testium veritatis, qui ante nostram aetatem reclamarunt papae ( Basel, 1556), the history sets out to demonstrate how the primitive evangelical message had become distorted, but at the same time showed the persistence of a minority of faithful witnesses to the truth, from the church fathers up to the Reformation. It was a pioneering work, an original and fruitful conception, for its time.

Flacius, like Vergerio, never forgot his native Istria or the Venetian Republic. In 1570 he published a Christian exhortation to the most serene prince and to the glorious Venetian Senate, in the midst of the present religious controversies and in the face of the manifestations of the Antichrist, to search for and investigate the truth in the celestial oracles of Holy Scripture. It was a letter that he had sent to the Signoria five years earlier, and to which he did not receive a reply; in it he urged consideration of the serious degeneration in Christianity caused by the deceptions, superstitions, and idolatry tolerated and fomented by the Church of Rome.20 Flacius was still tenaciously clinging to this hope of political intervention at the height of the Counter-Reformation offensive. Highly esteemed by Luther in his lifetime for his loyalty and intransigence, Flacius died poor and alone at Frankfurt in 1575.


BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

The most detailed examination of the diffusion of the Reformation in Istria is A. Pitassio's, cited in the notes.

The best study on Vergerio's career before his apostasy is A. J. Schutte, Pier Paolo Vergerio, the Making of an Italian Reformer ( Geneva: Droz, 1977). But E. Comba biographical sketch in I nostri protestanti, 395-476, is still useful. The novelist Fulvio Tomizza has reconstructed Vergerio entire career in his Il male viene dal Nord: Il romanzo del vescovo Vergerio ( Milan: Mondadori, 1984). For Vergerio's work as publicist during his sojourn in the Valtellina, cf. S. Cavazza, "Pier Paolo Vergerio nei Grigioni e in Valtellina (1549-53): Attività editoriale e polemica religiosa," in Riforma e societU+00E nei Grigioni, Valtellina e Valchiavenna tra '500 e '600. Ed. A. Pastore ( Milan: F. Angeli, 1991), 33-62.

On G. B. Goineo, besides the sketch by Cavazza cited in the notes, see also Cavazza, "Umanesimo e Riforma in Istria: Giovanni Battista Goineo e i gruppieterodossi di Pirano,"

____________________
20
Esortazione cristiana al serenissimo principe e all'inclito senato di Venezia, a volere, in mezzo alle presenti controversie religiose e di fronte alle manifestazioni dell'Anticristo, scrutare e investigare la verità nei celesti oracoli delle Sacre Scritture. Cf. E. Comba, I nostri protestanti, 383-86.

-156-

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